Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2013 Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon, Virginia Beach

When I first started running I signed up for three half marathon's in a giddy rush as a result of my sister's encouragement and hype.  I ran Baltimore and Philly in fall 2012 and all I had left was the Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon in March 2013.  By the time I ran Philly I was ready for a break from races and training.  I fully enjoyed the holidays, sat around on my butt too much, and gorged on yummy food.  As January rolled around I started to regret signing up for the Shamrock race.  Training during the winter months is hard!  But if I hadn't signed up for this race, I probably would have spent the rest of the winter hibernating.  And any race that rewards winners at the end with beer (and especially Yuengling - my college beer) is a good race!  

First thing I had to do was drop off Sunny and Rosy at my parents.  They were terribly sad to see me go, but don't worry they were pampered very well at the grandparents (my mom even hand feeds Sunny when she's acting mopey).  But seeing their sad faces as I drove away broke my heart!
I was originally going to do this race with a friend but due to personal circumstances she ended up having to defer.  My sister was still going to run the full marathon but I ended up driving separately because they left a day earlier than me.  I actually really enjoyed the drive down (I love driving fast on highways!) and finished The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on the drive to and from and enjoyed the food/pee stops (McDonald's is totally appropriate pre and post race food!).  

It was super cold that weekend so not exactly beach weather.  But I love being near the beach.
My hotel was right by the finish line for both the half and the full marathon.  Seeing the finishing area made me excited/nervous.
I only realized the night before that this would be the first race I'd start by myself.  And it was so early!  I walked in the freezing cold to the starting area which was only a few blocks away.  I huddled against a brick wall as I did the daily crossword puzzles on my phone (whenever I'm nervous, crossword puzzles always help calm me).

The half started kinda late, about 15 minutes, and then we were off!  This course is super easy and flat but also very boring!  The only fun part is at the very end when you run along the beach.  If this race wasn't so easy/flat and didn't have such awesome gear and post-race stuff, I wouldn't love it as much as I did.

There were some pretty spots but they were rare.
I totally didn't train that well for this race but because the course was relatively flat and I'm secretly competitive, I ended up PRing!  I didn't feel terribly busted after finishing so I decided to fully enjoy the post-race stuff.  This race had the best post-race stuff I've ever seen.  Right after you finish they have a long stretch along the beach that you walk along as you collect your medal, food, water, Gatorade, the finisher's item hat (you get the shirt when you pick up your bib before the race) and a bonus finisher's item (this year it was an awesome fleece blanket).  This was great because it spreads out the runners so there's no sudden stops.  I like the long walk after finishing a race because it helps my legs loosen up a bit.  Then you can either go back to your hotel, or you can veer off onto the beach where they set up the party tent.
This year the tent was packed because it was so cold and windy outside, everyone was huddled inside the heated tent.  My sister said that in past years when she's run this and it's been warmer, a lot of runners just lay on the sand as they drink their beer and relax.  

The full marathon is sponsored by Yuengling and so the finisher's tent was filled with kegs of Yuengling and a surprisingly delicious Irish stew station.  Nothing tastes as good after finishing a cold race as a hot and salty brothy soup.  I got my broth and then I immediately went to the beer stations.  All finishers get four free beers.  I am proud to say that I got all four!  Ok I only got two when I finished but then I went back when my sister finished the marathon and got two more.  Apparently they go through 200-300 kegs each year.  They also have the keg lines go through coolers packed with ice so you get a wonderfully icy cold beer.  
Having gone to college in Philadelphia, I was basically raised on Yuengling.  So even though I was tired, cold, and by myself, I had a blast sipping away at my soup and drinking my Yuengling!  I also went outside wrapped in my finisher's fleece blanket, enjoying the cold beach.
In case you didn't notice, yes I painted my nails green in honor of the race.  There are tons of people dressed up in green and fun outfits!  I wore a green shirt but it was so cold I spent most of the race with my blue jacket on top.  My sister said she didn't see as many fun green outfits because she was in the first corral of the marathon with the hard core runners.  I watched her cross the finish line from my hotel room's balcony!  It was awesome seeing her finish, especially because I was freshly showered, dressed warmly, and slightly tipsy from the beer.

Despite the boring course, I think this was my favorite race.  Everything about it was just so much fun!  The race itself with so many participants dressed in green and/or crazy outfits, the awesome free finisher's stuff (t-shirt and fleece blanket!), the unique medal which also is a bottle opener, the finisher's tent with music, beer, and food, and the beach.
I also had a great time because my niece and nephew were there for the kid's run and we had a blast both before and after the race.  I think it would've been nicer if it was slightly warmer, but then I might not have PR-ed because I run terribly in warm weather.  I think I like the smaller, quirkier races, than the big ones.  Since my friend deferred I'll be running this again next year and I'm looking forward to it!

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